7 Types of Mid-Semester Feedback to Help Students Succeed
Don’t wait until the end of the semester to get feedback from your students!
Last semester, I posted a question to the educators in my social media networks and asked, “Do you do a mid-semester "check-in" with your students? If so, what do you do? What questions do you ask to get feedback?”
I compiled the responses from the Lecture Breakers Facebook group and my Twitter page to give you some guidance as you think about adding a mid-semester review to your course. (For more reasons why you might want to consider checking in with students mid-semester, read this blog post.)
In terms of format, the responses were varied. Some educators do daily check-ins with their students. Some meet with students individually to see how things are going. Others do polls or anonymous surveys.
As you look through the list, choose the questions and format that work best for you and your students. Consider your goals for conducting a mid-semester “check-in” and what you’re willing to change as the semester progresses.
Note! You don’t have to change everything about the way you teach and you don’t have to completely redesign your course.
Questions For Students: Self-Evaluation
One of the most powerful tools for growth is self-evaluation. Use the mid-semester "check in" as an opportunity for students to take an honest look at the course, their performance, and what they can do better.
Asking students to reflect on their effort and learning brings perspective and encourages them to be open to making changes. Here are some questions you can ask the students to guide their self-evaluation.
- What is going well for you in this course?
- What is helping you learn?
- What is not going well for you in this course?
- What is hindering your learning?
- What challenges have you encountered?
- If needed, what can you do differently to be more successful in this class?
- What have you been learning?
- Have you completed all of the reflections assigned so far?
- Have you read all of the readings for each topic?
- Have you fully participated in the two weeks that we've been covering topics?
- How can you improve in __________ area?
- Tell me about the work you've done so far for the course?
- Have you attended lectures/tutorials?
- How are you preparing for class?
- What is the average time you spend on various weekly tasks (reading, completing assignments, etc.)? Note: If average is much higher or lower than expected, discuss strategies to adjust.
- What could you do to further facilitate your learning?
- Use a rating scale. On a scale of 1-10, with 5 being how you started the semester:
- How are you feeling?
- What do you need?
- What are you doing that is working well?
- Where do you study and who do you study with?
- How do you study?
- How much time do you spend studying?
- How much time do you spend reviewing for an exam?
- What is overwhelming or anxiety-provoking right now that we can work toward addressing?
- Do you need any supportive services (e.g., tutoring, counseling, etc.)? Note: No matter their response, remind students those things exist as often as you can.
Questions and Activities For Students: Instructor Evaluation
Mid-semester is also an opportunity for students to give honest feedback about the instructor's efforts.
- What am I doing that best facilitates your learning?
- What could I do to further facilitate your learning?
- Is there something you wish was present in the course?
- Identify one thing I have been doing that you want me to continue doing.
- Identify one thing I can do to make the tutorial sessions more useful.
- Use a color or alphanumeric tool for instructor evaluation:
- Green or K(eep): What you would like me to continue doing
- Amber/Yellow or S(tart): What should I start doing/adding?
- Red or Q(uit): What should I stop doing?
- Create a feedback wall the students can write on during mid-semester evaluations.
- Start / Stop / Continue: What is one thing I (or we) should start doing? One thing we should stop doing? And one thing we should continue doing in this course?
You don't want students to get to the end of the course and unexpectedly realize they are failing! Communication is so important, and if a student is off track with where they want to be in the course, the middle of the semester gives them a chance to make a plan to get back on track.
One beneficial mid-semester activity is meeting with students individually to discuss their grades, areas they find difficult, and any issues they have. This could be in addition to or in place of an anonymous questionnaire. Questions you might ask:
- What is your current grade? What grade did you hope for/expect?
- How are you doing in this class?
- What grade would you give yourself for the first part of this course and why?
- What grade would you like to have in the course at the end of the semester?
- How do you plan on achieving this grade based on your performance thus far?
Questions and Activities for Course Evaluation
Evaluating the overall design of the course is as important as evaluating the student’s efforts and the instructor’s effectiveness. Sometimes simple changes to the course design can have a big impact on student learning and success.
Ask these questions mid-semester when activities and resources are fresh on students' minds. Then, you could ask them again at the end of the semester to get feedback on the entire course.
- Are you able to access everything you need to succeed in this course?
- What has been your favorite activity?
- What aspects of the course (class, videos, in-class exercises, assignments, quizzes, readings, etc.) do you find helpful? That is, what aspects of the course are working well for you and should be continued as they are?
- What aspects of the course have been the most successful for you so far?
- How useful are you finding the course resources (textbook, slides, worksheet, practice quiz etc.)?
- What's someone doing in another unit that you think would work in this one?
- What are we doing in this unit that you think would work in others?
- What is the most beneficial aspect of the course for your learning?
- What are the muddiest point(s) for you in this course?
- What are your expectations for the second half of the course?
- Which topic have you enjoyed the most so far?
- Which topics have you enjoyed the least so far?
- Ask questions about particular parts of the course (Is the reading manageable or too much?).
- Do you have recommendations to improve the course design or delivery?
- Do a quick thumbs up/thumbs down survey:
- What are two aspects of this course you give a "thumbs up" to?
- What are two aspects of this course that you give a "thumbs down to"
- Briefly discuss the most common results.
- Send an electronic poll asking:
- What do you think of the course so far?
- What star moments would you would like to highlight?
- What personal suggestions do you have for improvement?
- Is there anything you would like to tweak/edit going forward?
- How do you feel generally about your emotions and connection to the instructor and other students?
Goals are a powerful growth tool and can help students stay focused and motivated. Consider asking students to set goals at the beginning and middle of the semester. Offer opportunities for students to re-visit their goals, reflect on their progress, and make adjustments as needed. Consider:
- If goals were set at the beginning of the semester, ask the student how they’re doing working toward those goals. Goals can be course-related or related to the student’s life.
- Do a Keep/Stop/Start activity: What can I (the instructor) and you (the student) Keep/Stop/Start doing to help you reach your goals for this course?
- It's the middle of the semester. Have you made progress towards the goals you set the first week of class? If yes, let's celebrate! Congratulations! If no, what changes do you need to make to achieve your goals by the end of the semester?
Open-Ended FeedbackSometimes students need additional space to share their thoughts, ideas and feedback. It's a good idea to add and open-ended questions to your mid-semester feedback process.
- Is there anything else I should know?
- Is there one thing you'd like to share that you haven't already?
- Do you have a question for me about the course?
Questions for Instructor Self-Evaluation
Mid-semester is also a great time for you to do a quick self-evaluation. Take a few minutes to honestly reflect on and answer these questions.
- What am I doing well in this course?
- Are there any changes I'd make now?
- Is there anything I need to change for next time?
- What support do I need?
- What do I think would help me most in the second half of the semester?
- Who can I connect with to keep learning and improving?
Final Tip: Acknowledge Feedback!
Compile the answers to the questions raised and respond to the students so they know you heard them and take their feedback seriously. Again, you don’t have to change everything about the course or the way you teach. But, do make sure students know you value their feedback, take is seriously, and you want to do what you can to help them succeed.
The middle of a semester is a great time to pause, reflect, assess, and get feedback from students. If you wait until the end of course evaluations, then it’s too late to make changes that will influence the students in your course this semester.
It’s also an excellent time to reflect on your own teaching experience in the course and consider what you want to improve, let go of, or change going forward.
Rossi, V. Inclusive learning design blog. Articles available online: https://inclusivelearningdesign.com/blog/
Sathy, V. (2017). The sweet spot of midsemester feedback. ACUE Community. Available online: https://community.acue.org/blog/viji-sathy-sweet-spot-midsemester-feedback/?fbclid=IwAR2c-bokCSBtIHp_KWmHtNaFljSKNrE339OMFv9ClA0bPbiRiqexzN41wBY